Photo: Capture the Event
QEGS Wakefield U15 have reached the NatWest Schools Cup final for the second year running after beating 14-man Whitgift 19-17 in the semi-final at Allianz Park today (March 15).
The crucial moment in the match came 30 minutes in when Whitgift fly half Fergus Donnelly was shown a straight red for an ankle stamp.
Whitgift appeared to be the more comfortable of the two sides in the opening exchanges. Prop Jumal Nelson imposed himself on the game with some early charges.
The deadlock was broken ten minutes in when Whitgift fly half Donnelly executed a delightful backline full of decoy runners that allowed him the space to put wing Will Varcoe over.
Donnelly was clearly feeling at home on the Allianz Park pitch at this point as five minutes later he took a quick tap to catch the QEGS defence napping to score.
QEGS came back into the match through a powerful driving maul that saw Whitgift prop Gabriel Diaz-Aylwin sent to the bin.
Moments later QEGS centre Luke Adams exploited the extra space to score (12-7).
But the game was turned on its head 30 minutes in when Donnelly was shown a straight red, condemning Whitgift to a lengthy struggle with 14 men.
The extra man and wind advantage became more visible in the second half, as Whitgift were forced into immediate last-ditch scramble defence, with QEGS wings Chesachi Hani-Okoroafor and Joe Gatus both going close.
You couldn’t help but sense the inevitability of a QEGS try and fly half Henry Wright eventually found a gap wide enough to dart through to give the Yorkshire school the lead.
QEGS looked to their maul to sap the life out of the Whitgift defence, forcing penalties and winning territory. Hooker Nathan Youngs smashed his way over to inflict more damage on Whitgift.
Whitgift looked to be on their way out but somehow found energy from somewhere. With props Diaz-Aylwin and Nelson carrying well, and centre Tom Griffiths looking unstoppable.
Diaz-Aylwin came painfully close on one occasion but dropped the ball over the line.
Centre Griffiths then threw the game into a dramatic denouement with a try in the corner for Whitgift. The conversion was crucially missed, which meant they had one final play but the kick-off went into touch and QEGS held on for a 19-17 win.
QEGS Wakefield head coach Gary Pickersgill commented: ”It feels absolutely amazing, an incredible game.
“Obviously the man going off for them in the first half changed the game, they came back at us well, but in the end I think we deserved it.”
Whitgift head coach Adrian Norris added: ”It’s very painful. It’s a long, hard season, the boys have worked incredibly hard all season and even going down a man I thought the spirit they showed was phenomenal.
“Trying to bring in a new ten was always going to be difficult, but I’m immensely proud of the boys.”
1. Jumal Nelson 2. Matt Pearson 3. Gabriel Diaz-Aylwin 4. Louis Mack 5. Elliot McDevitt 6. Rordon Daws 7. Sam Payne 8. Cam Wilkins 9. John Noon 10. Fergus Donnelly 11. Funsho Ajayi 12. Harvey Kelly 13. Tom Griffiths 14. Will Varcoe 15. Noah Ferdinand
Replacements: 16. Dom Atkins 17. Cam Klinger 18. Joe Dempsey 19. Mike Hanlon 20. Matt Binns 21. Jasprit Soor 22. Charlie Websdale
1. Harvey Farrar 2. Nathan Youngs 3. Callum Farley 4. Edan Kelly 5. Sachin Gogne 6. Max Henson 7. Joey Selim 8. George Charnock 9. Sam Tovey 10. Henry Wright 11. Chesachi Hani-Okaroafor 12. Luke Adams 13. Tom Jenkinson 14. Joe Gatus 15. Harry Clibbens
Replacements: 16. Tom Hewson 17. Sufaan Rafi 18. Ben Eames 19. Callum Tames 20. Tom Stephens 21.Tom Alderton 22. Tom Macrow